Today, I’m pleased to feature an exclusive guest post by my friend, Dena Jackson, who is working hard to bring accessible apologetics training to our local area. Dena recently graduated with an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. She currently trains college students at Bayside Church, where she also coordinated the 2010 Apologetics Conference featuring J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig.
Dena Jackson Talks About Faith and Doubt
How do you deal with your doubts about God and Christianity? Many of us have been taught to rebuke, bury, or pretend they’re not there. We know doubts dishonor God, so we suppress them and tout a cheery line of faith. When people ask us to answer the very questions that disturb us, we hastily encourage them to “just have faith!” We believe this is the way to glorify God.
But this may not be the best way to deal with our doubts. One of my favorite Bible stories is of a man who brings his demon-possessed boy to Jesus. The man says “if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us” (Mark 9). Jesus replies, “‘If you can?’”
Alarm bells were probably going off in the crowd surrounding Jesus. “He just said if!” That one word exposed this man’s doubts. “Quick, cover! Say, if you choose!”Jesus was clearly disappointed with this man’s doubt. Yet he does not banish the man from his presence until he could muster up faith, or at least hide his doubts. Rather, Jesus tells him that everything is possible for one who believes.
Here, Jesus reveals the true nature of the situation. This man, half doubting, half desperately hoping that Jesus can help him out, approaches Jesus and begs him to do what he can. Jesus tells the man that the question is not if He can heal the man’s son. There is no “if” about that. The question is whether the man knows Jesus can heal his son. The issue was not with Jesus. It was with the man.
This is the case with us and all our doubts about God. When we doubt God’s goodness, it is not because God is not good. It is because we lack understanding. When we doubt that God is real, it is not because of a lack of evidence. It is because there is something blocking us from seeing all the evidence. At a fundamental level, I think many of us hide our doubts from God because we are worried that our doubt reveals some deficiency in God. Not so. It reveals a deficiency in us. That is why we need to admit it to God like every other deficiency so that he can help us with it. Understanding this is pivotal.
Jesus reveals that the problem is in the man. The man’s response should be ours as well. He cries out “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” He confesses both his faith and his doubt. Does God like it when we doubt him? Probably not. But God is a God of truth, and He loves honesty.
Any confession of faith in the midst of doubt is extremely glorifying to God. It is easy to have faith when everything makes sense. It is difficult and painful to trust God and live for Him when things don’t seem to add up.
When you doubt, be honest. Lay bare your thoughts before God. The deficiency is in you, not in God. Show that you believe that by presenting your doubts to God and asking him to help you understand.
Let our response in the midst of doubt be:
God, this does not make sense! I do not understand, but I want to. I know what the Bible says about you, but certain things I experience and have learned don’t match up with it. Help me. You are a God of truth. You are not afraid of questions. You promise that those who seek you will find you. God, I am seeking. I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!
Dealing with doubt? Check out these resources on faith and doubt:
- The Thomas Factor: Using Your Doubts to Draw Closer to God by Gary Habermas
- Dealing with Doubt by Gary Habermas
- In Search of a Confident Faith: Overcoming Barriers to Trusting in God by J.P. Moreland and Klaus Issler
- Doubting: Growing Through the Uncertainties of Faith by Alister McGrath (Foreword by Ravi Zacharias)
- Hard Questions, Real Answers by William Lane Craig
- God in the Dark: The Assurance of Faith Beyond a Shadow of Doubt by Os Guinness